Elite JTF-2 troops join Canadians in Kabul
Date: Sunday, August 24 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics
The elite commandos of Joint Task Force 2 are operating in Afghanistan as part of the Canadian contingent of soldiers to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Department of National Defence confirmed yesterday.
A spokesman for John McCallum, the Defence Minister, told the National Post that an undisclosed number of JTF-2 commandos have now joined the more than 1,900 Canadian soldiers in Kabul. "I can confirm that some members of JTF-2 are among the Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan with the ISAF," said Randy Mylyk, spokesman for the minister.
"Obviously, for reasons of security and safety of those members I cannot give out any more information, other than to say that the members of JTF-2 that are in that theatre [of operations] are working in direct support of General Leslie." Major-General Andrew Leslie is the second-in-command of ISAF and the senior Canadian officer in Afghanistan.
The statement suggests the JTF-2 commandos are operating in all of the 31-nation force's districts, not just the Canadian-patrolled "Sector West."
The presence of soldiers from the special forces unit has been an open secret in Camp Julien, the home base for most of the Canadians in Kabul, for weeks.
Although JTF-2 is almost obsessively secretive about its operations and the identity of its members, other members of the Canadian brigade group were quick to note the arrival late last month of a number of large, bearded and muscular soldiers in combat fatigues stripped of the usual name tags and unit markings.
However, spokesmen for the Canadian contingent would not comment on JTF-2's presence on the sprawling, heavily fortified base camp. "We never confirm or deny the presence of these people," said Maj. Roland Lavoie.
Mr. McCallum promised to make public the places that JTF-2 was operating -- if nothing else -- after an embarrassing gaffe over the special forces' presence in Kandahar, during a 2002 mission to that southern Afghan city, cost his predecessor his job as defence minister.
A photograph of unit members with captured al-Qaeda fighters ended up in newspapers, sparking a brief parliamentary investigation into why then defence minister Art Eggleton did not immediately inform the Prime Minister that JTF-2 had been involved in taking prisoners.
JTF-2 began as a small, specialized unit for dealing with hostage-taking situations. The commandos were what are known in the special forces community as "door kickers," soldiers who burst into a building or vehicle to rescue hostages and "neutralize" their captors.
In the past two years, however, the unit has expanded into other roles modelled after similar special forces units, such as Britain's Special Air Service and Special Boat Service, the U.S. Army's Delta Force and the U.S. Navy SEALS.
In November last year, General Ray Henault, the Chief of Defence staff, said JTF-2's return to Canada from Afghanistan was part of an "operational pause" for the commando unit, which was in the midst of a $120-million expansion designed to double its capabilities.
The unit can act as bodyguards for VIPs -- Mr. McCallum was reportedly guarded by JTF-2 soldiers during a two-day visit to Afghanistan this summer -- or as commandos, operating in small teams behind enemy lines, to identify targets for air strikes or mount fast, hard-hitting raids.
In Afghanistan, the members of JTF-2 could be used either as bodyguards for senior ISAF officers or to seek out members of the resurgent Taliban who have been blamed for mounting attacks on ISAF troops this year.
The Canadian area of operations was expanded on Thursday when the Royal Canadian Regiment officially took over responsibility for patrolling the western half of the city, including many outlying villages, hills and mountains that could be used as refuges or launching pads for extremists bent on attacking ISAF in a bid to destabilize the transitional Afghan government.
The expanded Canadian sector would be ideally suited for JTF-2 "hunt and destroy" missions, tracking down and capturing or killing militants who have taken aim at ISAF patrols in the area.
Source: The National Post